THE annual International Snow Sculpture Competition came to a close this morning as the tired and cold artists were forced to put down their tools and wait for a verdict on who would be crowned this year’s winner.

Fifteen teams of five sculptors each spent much of the last week carving massive blocks of snow into larger-than-life creations in an effort to gain some recognition for a highly-specialized skill.  Because all power tools and colorants are banned from the competition, the dedicated artists got creative with their selections, with some using carrot scrapers and chicken wire along with traditional saws and ice picks.  This year, there were teams from Canada, Spain, China, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Estonia, Switzerland and the United States- Alaska, Colorado, Idaho and Wisconsin.

The most surprising entrants- Mexico, Greece, and Australia- were all from warm countries, giving their representatives less opportunity to practice their skills at home.

That has not hurt them in the past, however, as the Mexican team were last year’s victors. The competition is held in Breckenridge, Colorado, and has been for the past 21 years. The event’s organizers arrange for snow to be collected by dump trucks and compacted using wooden frames and snow blowing machines. The snow is packed in by the strong feet of five to ten volunteers who jump on top of the snow to compress it before more snow is then added. –Daily Mail

The finished product is a 20-tonne block of snow that is 10 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 12 feet high. When the event begins, the teams have 65 hours spread over the course of five days to turn their blocks into masterpieces.